PHONY recruitment agents for the Seasonal Workers Program in Australia and New Zealand are one of the common problems encountered by our seasonal workers.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs who is currently also the acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade Manasseh Maelanga told parliament on Monday.
Mr Maelanga was responding to a question from Leader of the Independent Group and Member of Parliament for North East Guadalcanal Dr Derek Sikua.
Dr Sikua asked about the Seasonal Workers Program, its problems and steps to addressing these problems.
Mr Maelanga told parliament that some of the immediate problems encountered by the seasonal workers are the expenses involved in the recruitment process.
These expenses include medical examination fees, police clearance, passport fees and fares from the provinces to Honiara.
Unfortunately, he said there is also the problem of false recruitment agents.
“A number of false recruitment agents are here in the country, some even include some Members of Parliament,” the deputy prime minister said.
“One example is the Solomon Islands Toomba Association.
“The association seems to have a group of more than 1000 members during 2015.
“The association has collected some funds from the members with the promise of sending them to Australia – to date no one is able to travel,” he said.
Mr Maelanga added that another problem is inadequate support.
“No support was given to the workers from the government side when they are in New Zealand or Australia.
“Not like other countries where their labour officials are there with them on the ground to ensure everything is okay for the workers,” he said.
He said even the higher port charges are a problem for seasonal workers returning to the country.
“Many of the seasonal workers normally bring into the country personal effects purely for domestic and household use.
“They normally bring those effects in containers, there is no special rate given to them despite those materials are not for commercial purposes,” Mr Maelanga said.
He then stated that to manage these challenges the Labour Mobility Unit (LMU) need to be active in providing right and accurate information to the public to ensure no one is victim to con agents.
“Labour Mobility Unit through approval from the minister or permanent secretary can coordinate with Solomon Islands customs and finance to provide exemption to items belonging to the RSE workers when arriving at the ports,” Mr Maelanga said.
By STEPHEN DIISANGO